How do women who are informed that they are at increased risk of breast cancer appraise their risk? A systematic review of qualitative research

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This review aimed to synthesise qualitative research on how women notified that they are at increased risk of breast cancer view their risk. Five electronic databases were systematically reviewed for qualitative research investigating how women who have received an increased breast cancer risk estimate appraise their risk status. Fourteen records reporting twelve studies were included and critically appraised. Data were thematically synthesised. Four analytical themes were generated. Women appraise their risk of breast cancer through comparison with their risk of other familial diseases. Clinically-derived risk estimates were understood in relation to pre-conceived risk appraisals, with incongruences met with surprise. Family history is relied upon strongly, with women exploring similarities and differences in attributes between themselves and affected relatives to gauge the likelihood of diagnosis. Women at increased risk reported living under a cloud of inevitability or uncertainty regarding diagnosis, resulting in concerns about risk management. Women hold stable appraisals of their breast cancer risk which appear to be mainly formed through their experiences of breast cancer in the family. Healthcare professionals should explore women’s personal risk appraisals prior to providing clinically-derived risk estimates in order to address misconceptions, reduce concerns about inevitability and increase perceived control over risk reduction.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Cancer
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Jul 2022